If you had to name a city considered one of the largest in the world by mass, would Mount Isa be a contender?
Romantically known as “The Isa”, there’s a lot to be discovered in this ol’ mining town, and as the capital city of Outback Queensland, you’ll be wise to let the experts guide you.
Although no secret handshakes are required, there’s a few favourite spots that are shared only through word-of-mouth whispers by the those in-the-know.
Get to know the city like a local with this guide.
1. Dig deep with a Mining Tour
With a rich mining history, it seems only logical that the best place to start is by throwing on some bright orange overalls, gum boots, and a matching orange hard hat with cap lamp and join the Hard Times Mining Tour.
Squeeze yourself into an Alimak Cage, and descend to the depths of a replica mine, to hear first-hand stories by an ex-Isa miner, aka your tour guide.
Down in the depths, you’ll get a close up look of current mining machinery, such as jackhammers and mining trucks used to navigate the underground tunnels.
Feeling brave? Roll up your sleeves and try your hand at the air-drill and feel the earth rumble as you blast the mine wall.
2. Isa Experience and Outback Park
The Isa Experience takes you on a history tour showing how mining has evolved from its discovery in the early 1920s to the Glencore mine that operates today.
Wander through the exhibit and take your time to watch the videos playing on their award-winning multi dual plasma screens.
After you’ve soaked up the history lesson, take some time to explore the surroundings of Outback Park, an oasis of lush native plants, a central lagoon and a Lawn Hill Gorge inspired waterfall.
Bring your lunch and find yourself a nice shady spot to relax before charging forth with more Isa adventures.
3. Check out some Barra
Ever wondered how a lake, which is home to regular sport fishing events, such as the Lake Moondarra Fishing Classic, doesn’t run out of fish?
At Outback At Isa’s – The Hatchery – you’ll find the answer.
Here you’ll learn about the initiative by the Mount Isa Fish Stocking Group (MIFSG) to start a hatching program and centre to regenerate and restock the lake.
Thanks to this initiative, rod and reel enthusiasts will be angling for local favourites for years to come.
4. Visit the Mary Kathleen Mine
This short trip isn’t for the faint-hearted.
Not because the site is an old Uranium mine, but because you’ll think you’ve stepped onto the set of a deserted John Wayne flick.
In 1958 the Mary Kathleen Mine and Township was officially opened, and became home to roughly 1,000 residents.
But after it was shut down in 1981, the whole town was dismantled and cleared away, leaving behind dirt roads and driveways that lead to bare concrete foundations.
Jump aboard the North West Tours air conditioned coach to hear more stories as they navigate you to the glistening liquid centre of the old mine, with water so blue it could envy the Amalfi Coast.
5. Boot scoot at the Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo
Did you know that Mount Isa hosts the biggest rodeo in the southern hemisphere?
Not far from the CBD is Buchanan Park, where the legendary Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo event has been operating since 1959.
Put on your akubra, get in the rodeo spirit and rock along with the locals with a range of activities , from street parades and market stalls, to an open-air concerts – not to mention the whip-cracking good time in the rodeo arena.
6. Set out for a sunset at Lake Moondarra
Lake Moondarra is just a short 16km drive from town, and the Lake Lookout is the prime location to admire the beauty of Transport Bay.
If you fancy something extra special, head out there with North West Tours and be spoilt with a cold beverage and ploughman’s platter while you soak in the sunset.
7. Go underground
In 1942 the Mount Isa Underground Hospital was built by off-duty miners as a wartime civilian hospital.
The hospital was set up to treat those under the weather, underground, and safely away from the looming threat of aerial attacks by Japanese bombers.
After years of being forgotten, this hospital was restored to its glory days with original furnishings and medical equipment based on photo memorabilia.
Join a guided tour and take a step back in time as you wind through the tunnels that make up the 40-bed hospital.
8. Discover the past at the Riversleigh Fossil Centre
Strapped for time but want to learn about the famous fossils of Riversleigh without travelling 277km to the World Heritage-listed site?
The Fossil Centre at Outback at Isa has you covered. Here you’ll learn how the fossils are extracted from the World Heritage-listed site.
Make sure you time your visit to jump on a laboratory tour; they are held twice daily at 10am and 2pm.
Of course if you want the real deal, North West Tours can take you there as part of their 3 day, 2 night Adels Grove Tour.
9. Take a city tour
If you’re pressed for time and want a snapshot of Isa, then jump on this City Explorer Tour.
You’ll get to see traditional dwellings and the heritage-listed villa where Queen Elizabeth once stayed – Casa Grande – as well a behind-the-scenes tour of Glencore mine.
After getting your photo taken with lead smelter and bore mill as your backdrop, you’ll head to the train station to see where the Darwin-bound “Progress and Prosper” rail tracks came to a halt.
The tour finishes with a quick stop in at Buchanan Park.
10. Spot city lights in the outback
Finish the day by venturing to the City Lookout for a 360-degree view of the city.
Try and get there in time for sunset to be captivated by the dancing colours of the Outback sky.
Don’t panic if you miss it, it’s just as magical after the sky descends into darkness and the silhouettes of the mine smelter stacks take over the sky, and the mine lights glisten in the distance.
Have you been to “The Isa”? What are your favourite things to do while visiting the biggest city in the world?